In 2023, Google is making a huge change to how Chrome web browser extensions work — and it might be killing Chrome ad blockers in the process.
That's right, pop-up ads are making a comeback in 2023.
Critics are pointing out that the tech giant is also the world's biggest advertising company, which may give it a conflict of interest. Here's what to know about the changes, whether you're a developer or a browser user.
What's Happening Exactly?
It's a huge update to Google's popular web browser in the form of a new extension manifest. It has been four years in the making, and Google itself calls it “one of the most significant shifts” it has ever made in how Chrome browser extensions work.
An extension manifest gives a browser data about an extension that might include details like key files and functionality the extension needs access to. But Google's new manifest changes how network request modifications work, removing extensions' power to use dynamic filtering in order to find and block ads. Instead, the extensions will rely on a much smaller list of banned URLs, cutting the number of ads it can block back by 90% or more.
The update, Manifest V3, will begin replacing the current Manifest V2 in January 2023.
In With the New Extension Manifest, Out With the Old
Here's the newly revealed timeline, via Google's own blog:
- Starting in January 2023 in Chrome 112, Chrome may run experiments to turn off support for Manifest V2 extensions in Canary, Dev, and Beta channels.
- Starting in June 2023 in Chrome 115, Chrome may run experiments to turn off support for Manifest V2 extensions in all channels, including stable channel.
If you're a developer with a Manifest V2 extension, you'll have to update it following another timeline as well.
- In January 2023, use of Manifest V3 will become a prerequisite for the Featured badge as we raise the security bar for extensions we highlight in the store.
- In June 2023, the Chrome Web Store will no longer allow Manifest V2 items to be published with visibility set to Public. All existing Manifest V2 items with visibility set to Public at that time will have their visibility changed to Unlisted.
- In January 2024, following the expiration of the Manifest V2 enterprise policy, the Chrome Web Store will remove all remaining Manifest V2 items from the store.
Developers will have a full year remaining before their extension is removed, but they'll be hidden from view to anyone who wants to download them starting in June.
How Can You Keep Blocking Ads?
As soon as Chrome's ad blocker extensions stop working, millions of Chrome users are suddenly going to get very interested in figuring out a workaround. What options do they have?
In the long term, it's possible that developers will figure out a workaround – some are already working on the issue now, but won't be able to test out any theories until the new manifest is live. Users will likely have to put up with ads for at least a few months while a new ad blocker is developed, and possibly longer.
In the short term, there's one great fix: Switching to Firefox. The browser has a better track record of data privacy than Google's more popular Chrome, and Firefox offers a lot of great extensions. Add in a VPN and you'll have the perfect setup.